1. Title 1

The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

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Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 11: Ancient Kemet (Egypt): The New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550 B.C. – 712 B.C.) Part 2

Queen Tiye cont.

Statue of Queen Tiye in the Louvre, Paris. Queen Tiye played an active role in the politics of Kemet (Egypt) and foreign relations for many years and she became the first known Egyptian queen whose name appeared in official acts as well as on a cartouche.
Her example is thought to have served as a model for her daughter-in-law, as Nefertiti enjoyed much the same status as Tiye, served the court in the same capacity, and, most importantly, took care of the affairs of state when her husband was otherwise occupied or distracted from his duties.


It is not known when Tiye died, but it was most probably around the twelfth year of Akhenaten’s reign in the year 1338 BCE. The painting and inscription on Huya’s tomb is the last known mention made of her and is dated to that year. Her death is seen by some as coinciding with Akhenaten’s seeming loss of interest in foreign affairs, and perhaps his grief over the loss of his mother influenced his withdrawal. It has also been suggested, however, that he may have had no interest all along and simply left affairs of state to his mother and Nefertiti. Either way, his reign suffers a marked decline after Tiye’s death, and he largely neglected foreign policy, preferring to remain in his palace at Akhetaten and attend to his new religion. This preoccupation with Aten led to a decrease in Egypt’s prestige and the loss of a number of territories long held by the crown, notably Byblos, as well as the rise in strength of the Hittites to the north since there was no longer a significant Egyptian foreign policy to check their expansion. These circumstances have led scholars to speculate that, had she lived longer or perhaps exerted more direct influence on her son’s religious interest, the Amarna Period would have been remembered more favorably by future generations of Egyptians. As it came to be, however, Akhenaten would come to be considered `the heretic king’ and his reign wiped from memory.

Following Akhenaten’s death, his son Tutankhamun took the throne, repealed his father’s religious reforms, and re-instituted the old religion of Egypt. Akhenaten’s monotheism was so hated by the people of Egypt that measures were taken by his successors, Tutankhamun first and then Ay following him, to bury the legacy of the `heretic king', put his reign behind them, and build Egypt back to its former height. The last king of the 18th dynasty, Horemheb, took these measures further and, claiming the gods had chosen him to restore Egypt to its former glory, tried to erase Akhenaten from history. He ordered the temples to Aten, the stele, and even the city of Akhetaten destroyed. The only way scholars in the modern day know anything about the Amarna Period is because Horemheb used the ruins from Akhenaten’s reign as fill in constructing new temples to the ancient gods of Egypt and, from these ruins, the reign of the heretic king has been pieced together. It is for this reason, also, that Tiye’s death date, and even her initial place of burial, is a matter of debate.

Tiye appears to have first been buried in the tomb of Akhenaten and then re-buried in the tomb of her husband Amenhotep III. There is no clear agreement on this, however, because the argument for burial in Amenhotep III’s tomb is based on the discovery of her Shabti dolls there but nothing else. Further, her actual mummy was discovered (by the archaeologist Victor Loret in 1898 CE) in the tomb of Amenhotep II. The claim that she was first buried in her son’s tomb is supported by inscriptions but, as these writings are not clear and often incomplete, they are open to interpretation. Her mummy was first identified only as “The Elder Lady” and it was only later, when more information came to light on the reign of Akhenaten, that she was positively identified by name. At this time it became clear that, centuries before the reign of Cleopatra, well known from Greek and Roman accounts, there existed a queen of Egypt who ruled with the same authority as a man and exercised her power in equal measure with the great kings of the ancient world.

Source: 1. Joshua J. Mark, “Tiye,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified July 18, 2011, http://www.ancient.eu /tiye/.

Wooden statue of Queen Tiye




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